Check in Chess

During this article, we will cover the aspects of the check that a chess player should be wary of. First, we will have an introduction to this concept. Then, we will also see several examples of which pieces can or cannot give a check to the enemy King.

Check in chess

Quick Summary

  • The check rule in chess is a critical rule where a piece attacks the King. As the King cannot be captured, he must move out of the threat. A game ends in checkmate if the attack on the King cannot be removed in the player’s turn.
  • Checks are notated with a plus (+) sign. Any piece except the King, including Pawn, Bishop, Knight, Rook, or Queen, can check the enemy. Kings cannot check each other.
  • To avoid checks, keep the King safe, often by castling.
  • Escaping checks can be done in three ways: 1) Moving the King to a safe square; 2) Capturing the attacking piece; 3) Blocking the attack with another piece.

What is the check rule in chess?

It is a critical rule and defines the main characteristics of the game. It means a piece attacks the King. Since the King cannot be captured in this game, he has to move out of the threat. The game ends with a checkmate if the player cannot remove the attack on the King in their turn.

check in chess 2nd example

The above example shows a situation where the White player checked Black. The h7-Bishop attacks the King on the g8-square.

The check in chess is notated with the plus (+) sign during the annotation process. This sign is added at the end of the move to indicate that the player checked the enemy player.

For example, the last move in the position above is annotated as “Bxh7+”. This suggests that the h7-Bishop hits the Black King.

A player can use every piece other than the King to check the enemy. This includes a Pawn, a Bishop, a Knight, a Rook, or a Queen. Since the Kings cannot get close to each other, they cannot contribute to this concept.

How can you avoid checks in chess?

The best way to avoid the check in chess is to keep the King in a safe zone. This is often done by castling to a safe environment where the enemy cannot get closer to the King.

Avoiding check

White castled on the short side.

As seen above, the enemy cannot attack the White King in a logical sense. The pawns in front of the King serve as a shelter, creating an unpenetrable fortress. If the c5-Bishop captures the f2-pawn, they could technically deliver a check. However, this would be a terrible idea because the King would still be kept safe.

Avoiding check 2nd example

The Black King must escape to safety.

Once the King is misplaced, it can be assaulted easily. The pawns are excellent forces to close this deal and avoid any danger. In cases where the King is jeopardized, as shown above, he has to have a safety walk. The g8-square is an excellent place to start this journey. Moves like these are called “prophylaxis.” This idea dodges future alerts by taking the necessary precautions in the early stages.

Avoiding check - 3rd example

Black can gain a decisive advantage by striking the White King.

If one of the players pushes the pawns in front of the King, the squares not covered by the pawns are called “weaknesses.” The pieces can then occupy those squares, striking the King and gaining the initiative.

The above position illustrates a weakness in White’s position due to the lack of the f2-pawn. Since that pawn is göne, the “a7-g1” diagonal is considered weak. Black can check the White King by going Bc5+ and win an exchange by following with Nf2+.

To prevent this, players must tailor the position and think twice before pushing the pawns that are securing the King.

How can you get out of checks?

There are three ways to escape a check:

1) The first one is to run the King to a safe square that is not attacked by a rival piece.

how can you get out of chess

The h7-King can go back to the g8-square to dodge the threat.

The g6-Knight strikes the h7-King in the above position. To escape this menace, Black can move the King to a safe square. Of course, this square should be chosen wisely to prevent White from attacking. Technically, Black can shift the King to h6, g6, h7, h8, and g8-squares. However, only one of those squares allows Black to have a safe King, the g8-square.

2) The second way to escape the threat is to capture the attacking piece.

capture the attacking piece

The g8-King can remove the mance by taking the attacker, the h7-Bishop.

In the scene above, the h7-Bishop threatens the g8-King. Black can escape this threat by taking the unprotected h7-Bishop. This is typically a desired act if the King can return to safety in several moves. If White can initiate a forced sequence of moves once the King is too forward, Black can also choose not to capture the assaulting piece.

3) The third and last way of escaping this concept is by blocking the attack by putting a piece between the King and the assaulter.

Blocking the attack

The g4-Bishop can block the menace by moving to the d7-square.

The Black King is menaced by the h7-Rook in the position above. Black can block this threat by putting a piece between the c7-King and the rival Rook. This can be a lifesaver on several occasions. However, Knight and Pawn assaults cannot be blocked due to their unique ways of assault. This makes them somewhat more dangerous because of the player’s limited choices.

Avoiding check - 4rd example

White is in check, and they must choose the best sequence to escape it.

Now, let’s see a position where we can use all three ways to avoid a check. The d5-King is under attack by the d1-Rook. The King can move, the b6-Bishop can be used to prevent the menace, or the d1-Rook can be captured.

If the King moves, the enemy can capture the e1-Rook and win a full Rook. The same also occurs if the b6-Bishop blocks the assault. This leaves us with the third option: capturing the assaulting force.

avoiding check - 5rd example

White is again in check, and only one way leads to victory.

Once the d1-Rook is captured, the enemy is captured back with the other Rook and assaults the King again. White now has two ways of removing this threat. If the King is moved, Black can win the e6-Rook. If the b6-Bishop is used to block (Bd4) the menace, White can keep all their pieces and go for the glory.

Examples of checks with different pieces

Players can use every piece other than the King to check the enemy. We will now see examples of several pieces threatening the rival King.

With a Pawn

The position below shows how a pawn can check the rival. The e5-pawn is utilized to attack the Black King. The opponent has to move to get out of this situation.

check with a pawn

The e5-pawn hits the enemy King.

As illustrated, pawns attack one square diagonal. Due to their low relative value, they are extremely dangerous if they hit the King. Pawns can always be sacrificed for a bigger goal. Players must be cautious before letting the opponent have their pawns too far forward.

With a Bishop

The Bishop is used as an offensive piece to threaten the enemy below. The a3-Bishop is attacking the opponent King. The enemy has to move their King to a safe square.

check with a bishop

Bishops have long scopes. This allows them to strike from a long distance. These attacks can also be blocked, probably by a pawn. If the Bishop is assaulting the enemy from the adjacent diagonal, they cannot be blocked.

With a Knight

Knights are tricky forces that are hard to avoid. The c4-Knight below attacks the opponent. Their assault cannot be prevented by blocking because of their unique attacking style.

check with a knight

The c3-Knight assaults the rival.

Since they cannot be blocked, they are subject to various mating patterns. Mate themes like “smothered mate” consist of Knights terrorizing the enemy King.

With a Rook

The Rooks are heavy pieces, the most valuable after the Queen regarding attacking forces. They are typically handy in open files and ranks. Capturing them to avoid the assault on the King might be hard due to their long range.

check with a rook

The h6-Rook strikes the enemy.

The position above shows the h6-Rook assaulting the d6-King. The Rooks are placed excellently at the seventh rank. Players must be careful and not let the enemy Rooks infiltrate their base if they have no plan to counter.

With a Queen

Queens are the most powerful pieces. Once they are involved in an assault, the gravity of the concern shifts to the maximum. Their long range of scope and ability to move diagonally, vertically, and horizontally allows for many scenes where the end is inevitable.

check with a queen

The f6-Queen attacks the d6-King.

As seen above, the f6-Queen can horizontally strike the rival. These checks can sometimes be dodged in all three ways we emphasized. If the attack is too near the King, the game can conclude with a checkmate due to a lack of escape options.

The example below also illustrates a scene where the Queen hits the opponent. This time, the Queen uses the diagonal rather than the rank or the file. The ability to constantly check sometimes allows one player to draw the game when they are down in material.

check with a queen diagonally

The b8-Queen uses the diagonal to strike the opponent.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on and, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
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Can you win chess by check?

Technically, players can win with a checkmate. It occurs when the check is unavoidable on the next turn. So, the answer is yes!

Can a King check the King?

No, the Kings cannot get close enough to check each other. - Your One Stop Chess Resource
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